Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Court set to consider bail ruling

A trio of judges are to consider suspending a controversial legal ruling on police bail

The highest court in the land is to consider suspending a controversial legal ruling on police bail which overturns 25 years of police practice.

Three judges will consider the application to "stay" the judgment, which means officers can no longer bail suspects for more than four days without either charging or releasing them.

If granted, the move would put the ruling on hold until the full appeal is heard at the same court on July 25.

There will be no public hearing as the trio of judges considers the application by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in private.

The court hearing is the latest stage of a row which erupted when district judge Jonathan Finestein, sitting at Salford Magistrates' Court, refused a routine application from GMP for a warrant of further detention of murder suspect Paul Hookway on April 5.

High Court judge Mr Justice McCombe confirmed the ruling in a judicial review on May 19, which meant time spent on police bail counted towards the maximum 96-hour limit of pre-charge detention, after which Home Office officials were told about the problems.

On Sunday shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed police were failing to arrest domestic violence suspects who breached bail conditions, leaving alleged victims vulnerable. She said: "Government delay and incompetence are at risk of becoming dangerous if they don't get a faster grip to sort this disastrous police bail situation.

"It is now six weeks from this judgment and a month since the Home Office knew, yet the police are still in a position where they cannot enforce bail conditions that are vital to protect witnesses and victims of crime. It is particularly concerning in domestic violence cases where bail conditions often include staying away from the family home, or an ex-partner's workplace or the children's school while the investigation is under way.

"If bail conditions can't be enforced that could make it harder to protect people's safety as well as jeopardising prosecutions and justice too."

The Government has already announced plans for emergency legislation to deal with the problem, with MPs pledging cross-party support.

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